At the heart of the Philebrity Awards, this year and every year, is the Non-Profit Of The Year award. Indeed, it’s the thing that makes these acknowledgements different from the annual ad section that is Best of Philly and their sickly Yelp-ish ilk. This category celebrates those groups and individuals who donate their time, money, and energy to help make our city run better, and to make life better for all of us — or at least as many of us as possible.
Any longtime resident knows that the city government moves slowly, and often in not entirely fair or understandable directions, and that even when it’s at its best, it’s spread thin. The groups below are so important to life in this city because they take it upon themselves to improve things, and to prod the officials when needed. It’s an admirable job not many are up to, and all of these organizations have taken it on with gusto and distinguished themselves in some way.
Bearing that in mind, here’s a handy guide to this year’s nominees.
· New Kensington Community Development Corporation has basically been helping to hold Kensington together and raising its profile since the mid 1980s. In that time, they’ve developed programs to reclaim and develop abandoned lots, to help residents buy new homes and stay in them, and to help Kensington develop in a way that benefits the residents and business owners who live there. They’ve taken over old factories and turned them into housing, which brings in new residents and keeps the neighborhood vital. One of their biggest campaigns has been Sustainable 19125, which seeks to make Kensington the most sustainable zip code in the nation. Most recently, they organized with other community groups to lobby the School District of Philadelphia to build Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts (KCAPA) as part of their Big Green Block. The high school is the first building in the area to be LEED certified platinum.
· Mighty Writers is all about setting up kids to succeed by fostering literacy and creative thinking. MW has a variety of programs, like their after-school writing academy, short- and long-term classes on topics that range from writing novels and short stories, to building your brand as a writer and getting your stories broadcast on Mighty Radio, Mighty Writers’ internet radio station. Mighty Writers’ Teen Scholars program helps high school students continue their development and prepare for college with SAT prep.
· The Sustainability Workshop is the school of your dreams. Sustainability Workshop takes 28 students from three local high schools. Those students attend SW for their senior year instead of going to their normal schools. At SW, they work with professors who help them develop projects that accord with their interests. Instead of being forced to complete assessments in a variety of limited subjects, SW students learn the material they need to graduate in the context of their individual projects and under the guidance of real professors. All their projects are taken from real world problems, which aside from addressing the problems, shows kids that they have the power to change the world and build the future. You may have heard of the West Philly High EVX team, comprised of Philly high school students who build energy efficient cars and win lots of races with them; they’ve even been touted by President Obama. That’s a Sustainability Workshop project. SW is hoping to expand to a full high school next year.
· The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is an advocacy group that believes that Philly has a unique resource in our arts community, and that that community should be protected. The Cultural Alliance represents hundreds of cultural organizations in the city and acts as a unified voice for the whole cultural community. They keep tabs on the involvement of Philadelphians in culture and the arts, publish reports on the importance of the arts to the economy and the quality of life in Philadelphia, and in the past have helped to keep away taxes on the arts that would burden cultural groups. They also hold workshops for arts-related non-profits that aim to make those non-profits stronger.
· The William Way Community Center is the center of the LGBT community in Philadelphia. The building that houses William Way is used by over 2500 people each month, and the list of services offered there is a bit staggering. There’s support groups, a library, a computer lab, an historical archive of Philadelphia’s LGBT community, meditation classes, a writing center for queer writers, and an art gallery. Aside from all the resources they offer, they also serve as an information center to connect members of their community with other non-profits.
· Neighborhood Bike Works is dedicated to spreading cycling and improving the quality of life for youth in Philly’s underserved neighborhoods through education and empowerment. They have an Earn-A-Bike program where after an 8-week course, students are able to get their own bikes, which Neighborhood Bike Works hopes will give them an opportunity to see parts of the city they might not otherwise. NBW also hopes that by cycling and meeting other cyclists around the city, young people will learn that seemingly different people can share interests, and that our similarities are more important than our differences. After they complete the course, many NBW alumni join an NBW cycling team and continue to ride, keeping them fit and healthy and getting them out from behind their screens. NBW also holds bike repair and education classes for adults.
So there you have it: A diverse group of organizations for sure, each of them fighting the good fight. And though it kills us to pit any one of them against the other, the reality is, that’s not the point of why we do this. Rather, it’s a great way for us to celebrate people and works that so often fly under the radar in the city’s media cycle. That said, hey, why not: Vote anyway.